Working horses in the winter? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 01-23-2013, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Working horses in the winter?

I was jumping my horse tonight and I made sure to warm him up good. But one of the barn managers came by and said its to cold to be working the horses because the cold air is hard on their lungs and at the most we should only be walking. It was 2 degrees F then and slowly dropping but I rode all year last winter in a unheated indoor arena at a different barn. Neither of my 2 past trainers have said anything about not working horses in cold weather. I am always good about warming up my horse and cooling him down no matter what. So my question is, is it truly bad to work horses in cold weather?
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post #2 of 8 Old 01-23-2013, 09:54 PM
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I have also been told that to work them in the extreme cold is bad because of drawing the extremely cold air into the lungs. My conversation was about riding below -20 deg Celsius, and I believe you were in minus 16.

So - yes, it is true that extreme cold is bad for them because whilst the muscles may be warm, heavy breathing to draw very cold air into the lungs will do damage.

But I don't know what temperature starts to cause problems.

I would be minded to follow your trainers advice and ease off as it gets colder. You can't see their lungs so you don't know what if any damage has already been caused.

Get up, get going, seize the day. Enjoy the sunshine, the rain, cloudy days, snowstorms, and thunder. Getting on your horse is always worth the effort.
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post #3 of 8 Old 01-23-2013, 10:05 PM
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Ps - you got me curious now!

If you do a search on "drawing extremely cold air into the lungs" then tons of articles come up.

This is copy and pasted from the first article that came up. It's about humans, but the science is still there:

Sometimes the best approach to such a question is to examine what happens when humans are subjected to the harshest of conditions, and then work backwards. On the face of it, things look good! Studies looking at the Inuit peoples inhabiting the Canadian Arctic found that a traditional lifestyle was generally associated with healthy lung function (1). This is not too surprising since the human animal is very good at adapting behaviour to suit its particular environment. In hot countries, a good example of this social acclimatization is the "siesta" taken at the hottest part of the day. Indigenous peoples also have the benefit of time-proven clothing developed for the conditions in which they live. The hood of the traditional Inuit parka, for example, normally maintains a cushion of warmer air infront of the face which "conditions" incoming air before it is inhaled, and therefore lessens the cold-shock to the lungs. Of course, such adaptive changes do not arise overnight, but have often been fine-tuned over many generations. Sadly, they can be lost in one lifetime. Over the space of the last 30 years, cultural changes within the Inuit community have been accompanied by a marked decline in chest health, particularly amongst men, and the inhalation of cold air has been cited as a potential risk factor (2). During the now-common operation of high-speed snow-mobiles, cold air is actively forced into the parka hood. This may disrupt or, at worst, completely remove the protective effects of the warm air cushion (2).

A high rate of breathing in a cold environment may also accentuate the risk of sustaining permanent lung damage. Hunters of both Inuit and European descent, who trapped fur in the high arctic earlier this century, and whose physically demanding work would lead to the deep inhalation of extremely cold air, were subsequentl,y found to exhibit signs of premature lung aging (3).

So it seems that at the extremes of the scale at least, prolonged exposure to cold air, particularly whilst undertaking hard aerobic activities, may well have the potential to damage the lungs. This suggestion is supported by several studies of Scandinavian elite cross-country skiers, which found a high incidence of asthma amongst such athletes when compared to the population as a whole (4, 5, 6, 7). This is a highly aerobic sport which may take place in temperatures colder than -15 C. In a two-centre study, the location with the coldest climate had the highest incidence of asthma (7). Perhaps more worrying from a UK perspective are the reports of similar findings amongst a figure-skating population (8) where rink air temperatures are above freezing point. However, pollutants often present in the rink environment may also make a significant contribution to this problem (9).

Get up, get going, seize the day. Enjoy the sunshine, the rain, cloudy days, snowstorms, and thunder. Getting on your horse is always worth the effort.
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post #4 of 8 Old 01-23-2013, 11:07 PM Thread Starter
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Huh that's interesting I'm gonna have to keep this in mind when riding.
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post #5 of 8 Old 01-23-2013, 11:10 PM
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A girl who rode at the barn I used to ride at rode her horse hard all winter. One year he developed pneumonia and the vet said it was related to sucking in too much cold air when being worked. I ride lightly in the winter but never enough for them to break a sweat or start breathing heavily.
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post #6 of 8 Old 01-24-2013, 12:49 PM
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I always go with the golden rule of "if it hurt/stings/feels funny for me to breath, it probably also feels the same for my horse". Usually we work them lightly when it falls below 35, if at all. Honestly, I don't want to ride when its that cold! ;)
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post #7 of 8 Old 01-24-2013, 12:56 PM
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My instructor makes the team do an indian mile after stretching... With as cold as the nights have been, I can say it was the hardest run I've had to do in my life.

But like others, if I'm just riding by myself for the hell of it, I usually don't work the horses harder than a jog. Its mostly evened out by lots of walking, and sometimes we only do walking exercises. I saw a post elsewhere that said winter is great for working out minor things and tuning up.
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post #8 of 8 Old 01-24-2013, 01:03 PM
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There is a short article in the latest Equus that states research studies have shown that strenuous work below 40F causes lung inflammation (prabably from the dryness of the air).
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